George Lochhead, of Golden, stopped by Steamboat Ski & Bike Kare in downtown Steamboat Springs on Thursday afternoon to check out the store’s merchandise. Lochhead was visiting Steamboat Springs to watch racers in this year’s USA Pro Cycling Challenge when it rolls through Steamboat Springs on Friday and Saturday.

Photo by John F. Russell

George Lochhead, of Golden, stopped by Steamboat Ski & Bike Kare in downtown Steamboat Springs on Thursday afternoon to check out the store’s merchandise. Lochhead was visiting Steamboat Springs to watch racers in this year’s USA Pro Cycling Challenge when it rolls through Steamboat Springs on Friday and Saturday.

Steamboat Springs businesses expect boon

Local store, restaurant owners prepare for busy weekend

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Megan Fisher loads boxes of SmartWool socks onto a cart, and eventually into a van to take to the finish line of Friday's stage of the USA Pro Cycling Challenge in Steamboat Springs. SmartWool will have a tent and plans to give away banger sticks and socks leading up to the finish of stage four of the professional cycling event.

— Zirkel Trading owner Steve Hitchcock hopes for a busy weekend beginning today when the USA Pro Cycling Challenge arrives in Steamboat Springs.

Hitchcock is one of many local business owners preparing for as many as 10,000 visitors in town to see the Stage 4 finish and Stage 5 start of the professional cycling race. Nearly 130 riders are expected to pedal into downtown this afternoon.

Zirkel Trading will stay open an extra hour until 9 p.m. and employ a couple of extra workers tonight, Hitchcock said. He’s hoping the Pro Cycling Challenge is like June’s Ride the Rockies in terms of its impact on his store.

“We did about 50 percent more that day than the same day the year before,” Hitchcock said Thursday.

Colorado Tourism Office Director Al White told The Denver Post this week that he expects $50 million to $70 million in direct economic benefit statewide from the Pro Cycling Challenge, based on results from similar bike tours in Missouri and Georgia.

White said Thursday that the real impact statewide would be the amount of future tourism generated from national and international exposure of Colorado’s “wonderful iconic imagery.”

“I think the direct expenditure will be dwarfed by the new tourists to Colorado as a result of this national and international TV coverage,” he said. “That’s really going to be the pot of gold for the state.”

The race is being broadcast on Versus throughout the week and on NBC on Sunday.

White, who represented Northwest Colorado as the House District 57 representative before joining the state Tourism Office, wouldn’t speculate on the direct economic impact of the stage finish and start in Steamboat. But he said a couple of days of full hotels and restaurants is unusual for late August, after the school year has started.

Lodging properties reported this week that they were nearing capacity, and some restaurant owners expect full tables tonight as a result of the Pro Cycling Challenge.

Steamboat Restaurant Gro­­up owner Rex Brice said he would increase staffing about 20 percent tonight at Mazzola’s Majestic Italian Diner downtown.

“I think because there are a lot of activities all day downtown, people will stay down there, particularly because of the traffic challenges,” he said. “I think they’ll come downtown watch the end of the race, get a bite to eat and go to the concert.”

The Lifestyle Expo and Sierra Nevada Beer Garden will operate from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday on Lincoln Avenue. A free concert with 3 Twins Broadband featuring members of the Subdudes starts at 6 p.m. followed by fireworks at 9 p.m. at Howelsen Hill.

F.M. Light & Sons co-owner Del Lockhart said getting customers near his door is important for generating business, and Steamboat residents never want to miss downtown entertainment or activities.

“They want to come down and check that out,” he said. “My chances of getting them in here are better if they’re walking down Main Street instead of at home, hiking or doing something else.”

Steamboat Ski & Bike Kare co-owner Harry Martin said he already has seen an increase in business, which he expects to continue through the weekend. Steamboat’s only Lincoln Avenue bike shop also will have a booth in the expo Friday.

Martin said he thinks the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resorts Association’s estimate of 8,000 and 10,0000 visitors this weekend might be low. He said it doesn’t factor second-home owners, visitors staying with friends and people camping in Steamboat because of the Pro Cycling Challenge.

“Watching the Stage 3 (Wednesday), there were so many people at the top of Independence Pass, it was like watching a stage of the Tour de France,” Martin said.

Mainstreet Steamboat Spr­ings Manager Tracy Barnett said because Lincoln Avenue will be closed until 11 p.m. Friday, some business owners aren’t sure what to expect. But they’re optimistic.

“I think whatever we do this weekend will be better than what we would have done if we didn’t have this event,” she said.

To reach Jack Weinstein, call 970-871-4203 or email jweinstein@SteamboatToday.com

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